Aerovironment has unveiled a new unmanned nano quadrotor, Snipe, designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
In April, Aerovironment delivered 20 Snipe systems to a US government customer and plans to deliver another 10 systems in May, David Sharpin, vice-president of Aerovironment’s tactical UAS business unit told FlightGlobal at the annual AUVSI Xponential show in Dallas, Texas. The Snipe systems consists of two nano UAVs about the size of a smartphone and a pad which allows the operator to punch in waypoints to launch and recover.
Snipe builds off a previous Aerovironment nano effort, Hummingbird, which the company executed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Hummingbird included an electro-optical but not an infrared sensor, while Snipe is equipped with electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) low-light-capable and long-wave infrared (LWIR) sensors. The UAV is able to record real-time video in both day and night, relay high-resolution images and can complete non-line-of-sight operations with its integrated UHF radio.
“Obviously it does leverage some from the Hummingbird,” Sharpin says. “The legacy we had with Hummingbird gave us insight to flight stability and stabilizing images.”
The April delivery marks the first delivery of Snipe and the units could be deployed in an operational environment, Sharpin says. However, the current customer will not fly Snipe in ongoing operations, but troops will run the UAVs through their paces, he adds.
Aerovironment would not elaborate on costs per unit, but Sharpin says the company is analyzing production costs on an individual basis.
“For some customers, it’s in the thousands,” he says. “They really want to outfit each soldier, so we’re gearing our production plan for something like that.”
Snipe would not only target the domestic customer base that Aerovironment has captured with its larger UAVs such as Puma and Raven. The company is developing a second version for international customers that complies with international traffic in arms regulations (ITAR).